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Science Sunday: Snowstorm in a Jar

Since there hasn’t been any snow in Charlotte this year so far, let’s make our own snow storm at home!

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There hasn’t been a snowstorm, or any snow really, across the Charlotte metro so far in 2023. So, let’s make our own! 

This is a fun experiment to do with the kids at home, especially on a cloudy day. This is an easy, two-part science experiment and you may have these items at home already.

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Note: Make sure you do this only with parental supervision! Although the paint is kid-safe and washable, do NOT drink anything.

What you’ll need:
-A jar (or large cup)
-Baby oil (or cooking oil)
-Washable paint (preferably white or light blue)
-Alka seltzer tablets
-Glitter (optional)
-Blue food coloring (optional)

For steps 1 through 3, you’re going to be focusing on liquid density. The density differences between the oil, water, and paint will be clearly seen.

Step 1) Add one cup of water to the jar
Step 2) Add one teaspoon of paint
Step 3) Add oil so your concoction is about ¾ of the way to the top

Optional: Add the blue food coloring! This will mix in with the water and make a clearer difference between the different liquids.

Step 4) Add Alka seltzer tablets! It’s a better idea to break them in half so you can see the reaction slower. The more liquids you have, the more tablets you’ll need.

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The science behind ‘Snow Storm in a Jar' 

Liquid density
According to the American Chemical Society, the density of a liquid is a measure of how heavy it is for the amount measured. If you weigh equal amounts or volumes of two different liquids, the liquid that weighs more is more dense.

Paint has the highest density which is why it settles to the bottom of the jar. The water, mixed with blue food coloring, will stay in the middle. The least dense liquid is the baby oil so it heads to the top! As we know, oil and water do not mix.

Chemical reaction
This kind of chemical reaction is done a lot, but this was a fun twist! The mixing of the ‘ingredients’ is caused by dropping the Alka seltzer tablet into the concoction, making the snowstorm effect.

Alka seltzer tablets contain an acid and a base that when mixed with water creates bubbles. This is a result of carbon dioxide gas released during the reaction. The bubbles mix up the paint and eventually bring it to the surface.

Note from Brittany: During our video above, I added the jar lid to mix things up without spilling. If you choose to do this, don’t leave the lid on. CO2 is a gas and could cause the lid to pop off and create more of a mess.

Contact Brittany Van Voorhees at bvanvoorhe@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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